James Webb telescope arrives in French Guiana for December 18 launch

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has successfully arrived at Kourou in French Guiana. The space telescope should follow the Hubble telescope. The target launch date is December 18.

After 16 days at sea, the space telescope has arrived at Port de Pariacabo in French Guiana. There is a distance of about 9334km from Los Angeles. The telescope will now be driven to the launch site in Kourou. There, two months of operational preparations begin before James Webb has to go up on December 18 with an Ariane 5 rocket. After unloading from the special shipping container, engineers will check the telescope’s condition and configure it for flight, which will include adding fuels. After that, Webb will be placed in the rocket, where the telescope will remain in its folded state. Only in space will everything be unfolded, including the different segments of the mirror that have to be positioned very precisely.

With the arrival in French Guiana, a long process of building, preparation and testing has been completed. Assembly of the telescope began in 2013 at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Then, in 2017, the telescope was taken to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for cryogenic testing. Those are very important, because the telescope will operate in space at -233 degrees Celsius. Then, in 2018, the telescope went to Northrop Grumman’s Space Park in Los Angeles, where tests were conducted over three years to ensure it was ready for science missions in space.

James Webb’s work and development originally began in 1996. It was then expected to launch in 2007, but the telescope was redesigned in 2005. Finally, construction was completed in 2016, after which years of testing began. James Webb’s launch date has also been pushed back several times, but a month ago the date of December 18 was communicated. That date has been chosen by NASA and ESA in collaboration with Arianespace, the manufacturer of the Ariane 5 rocket that will be used to launch the space telescope from French Guiana.

The James Webb telescope will be placed 1.5 million kilometers from Earth near the second Lagrange point, or L2. The space telescope will revolve around the sun there. The James Webb telescope focuses on the infrared part of the light spectrum and with it the telescope will detect light from the first generation of galaxies, which formed shortly after the Big Bang. In addition, James Webb will also play an important role in studying the composition of atmospheres of discovered exoplanets.

A brief comparison between the mirror size in James Webb and Hubble.